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Heart Defects Don't Increase Risk of Severe COVID-19

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Oct 16th 2020

new article illustration

FRIDAY, Oct. 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- In what will come as reassuring news to those who were born with a heart defect, new research finds these people aren't at increased risk for moderate or severe COVID-19.

The study included more than 7,000 adults and children who were born with a heart defect (congenital heart disease) and followed by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City.

Between March and July 2020, the center reported 53 congenital heart disease patients (median age 34) with COVID-19 infection.

"At the beginning of the pandemic, many feared that congenital heart disease would be as big a risk factor for COVID-19 as adult-onset cardiovascular disease," the study authors wrote in the report published online Oct. 14 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

However, the researchers were "reassured by the low number of patients treated at their center and the patients' outcomes," they said in a journal news release.

Among the 43 adults and 10 children with a congenital heart defect who were infected with COVID-19, 58% had complex congenital anatomy, 15% had a genetic syndrome, 11% had pulmonary hypertension and 17% were obese.

Nine patients (17%) had a moderate/severe infection, and three patients (6%) died, according to the study.

A concurrent genetic syndrome in patients of all ages and advanced physiologic stage in adult patients were each associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 symptom severity, the findings showed.

Five patients had trisomy 21 (an extra chromosome at position 21), four patients had Eisenmenger's syndrome (abnormal blood circulation caused by structural defects in the heart) and two patients had DiGeorge syndrome (a condition caused by the deletion of a segment of chromosome 22). Nearly all patients with trisomy 21 and DiGeorge syndrome had moderate/severe COVID-19 symptoms.

"While our sample size is small, these results imply that specific congenital heart lesions may not be sufficient cause alone for severe COVID-19 infection," according to Dr. Matthew Lewis, of Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and his colleagues.

"Despite evidence that adult-onset cardiovascular disease is a risk factor for worse outcomes among patients with COVID-19, patients with [congenital heart disease] without concomitant genetic syndrome, and adults who are not at advanced physiological stage, do not appear to be disproportionately impacted," the study authors concluded.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.